Of the myriad ruminating and analytical exercises I enjoy while engaging with Game of Thrones, one of my favorites is to consider the events of the series through the lens of modern political theory and dynamics, especially when it comes to the legitimacy of the leaders, a subject I’ve mentioned more than a few times in this space. I find the concept of legitimacy especially interesting where it concerns monarchy. While it is fairly clear what Dany’s personal motivations are for her quest for the Iron Throne, she’s never made an effective or legitimate case for her claim, and I do not believe it’s a coincidence. I think the reason she doesn’t have one is that she hasn’t developed a positive case to make for herself apart from her own personal drive and desire. Continue reading
Now, we’re cooking with gas. Or dragon fire. Or wildfire. Take your pick. Game of Thrones has long established a tendency to feature robust, standout episodes for the second slot of the season, and “Stormborn” continues that trend. This episode had no major flaws and just about every beat moved the narrative forward, in some cases monumentally so. The momentum, rhythm, and pace of the episode was consistent while still finding the time and restraint necessary to let crucial moments land.
As far as table-setting season premieres go, Game of Thrones season 7 lead off installment is pretty much as good as they come. Although I wouldn’t put “Dragonstone” in the pantheon of individual episodes, it did set up the board for the ensuing season, as Game of Thrones season premieres always have. It wasn’t the most riveting or challenging episode they’ve ever done, it certainly had its moments and that moved the narrative forward significantly, even though the most unexpected moment was a bizarrely orchestrated cameo by a pop star. Continue reading
When Cersei answers Lancel’s threat of “order your man (the Mountain) to step aside or there will be violence” with “I choose violence,” she’s not merely delivering a steely retort to her cousin’s attempt at intimidation through the force of the the Faith Militant, she’s essentially delivering the thesis statement of the episode. In “No One,” Cersei and Arya both “choose violence” in the face of very credible threats to their safety, the Hound chooses violence over the pacifism Septon Ray preached in the previous episode, and the masters of Slaver’s Bay choose violence in defiance of the diplomatic arrangement brokered by Tyrion, Conversely, Jaime and Brienne choose diplomacy, which is undercut by the Blackfish choosing violence by making his last stand at Riverrun rather than traveling north to aid Sansa in her campaign for Winterfell. Continue reading
At the beginning of this episode when Jon and Edd were interrupted by the sound of the Watchman’s cry to “open the gates,” it occurred to me Sansa and her escort could be on the other side, but when the very next edit brought us to the image of the gate opening to reveal exactly that, I was actually shocked out of sheer disbelief that this long awaited and longed-for event could actually be happening. Just so, from the time Sansa, Brienne, and Pod were safely within the walls of Castle Black until the time Sansa and Jon saw each other and embraced, I feared that either one or both of them would be suddenly pierced by an arrow or cut down before the reunion could occur. Once it appeared that they would both at least survive that moment in the courtyard I felt a sense of relief I’m unaccustomed to feeling during an initial viewing of a new Game of Thrones episode. Continue reading
In the time between this writing and the airing of the Game of Thrones finale, I’ve had ample opportunity to argue with several people, and repeatedly so, about the conclusion of “Mother’s Mercy” and what it might possibly entail for the characters. Now, I love a good argument about narrative and there are few things in life I enjoy more than discussing Thrones, but unfortunately, all these arguments have almost completely distracted from what was not only a brilliantly executed and exquisitely played final sequence, but also a very strong episode featuring some of the best work of the series so far, albeit along side some more problematic material. Regardless, I left this finale with more to chew on as a viewer and consumer of the series than with almost any other episode. Every sequence held significance either for character, plot, Game of Thrones as a series in the grand scheme of television and the larger culture, or in a few cases, potentially all three. Continue reading
Reek-it rhymes with week, which is about how long it took me to finish this episode because my six-month old puppy Fredo reacted and responded in kind and unceasingly to the dogs barking in the Winterfell kennel scene where Sansa is “reintroduced” to Theon/Reek. But when I could actually hear the soundtrack over little Fredo’s incessant barking, I really enjoyed this episode, especially the Winterfell content. I think Iwan Rheon gets Ramsay just right in the way that he’s threatening, odd, off-putting, and totally unhinged without being over the top and cartoonish. He goes right up to the line and stops exactly where he needs to.
As I attempt to suppress the dread I feel at the prospect of Grey Worm suffering a fatal wound at the hand of those repugnant and cowardly slavers, I’ll do my best to record a few more thoughts on what I thought was a really solid episode. Of all the great material this week, the highlight has to be that gorgeously moving scene between Stannis and his daughter Shireen. It’s the clearest glimpse we’ve had of the human side of one of the most austere and least compassionate figures in the series. This scene did a lot to highlight why I think Stephen Dillane was such a perfect choice to play Stannis in the first place because he’s got this underlying warmth under all the coldness he exudes. It was a great humanizing moment for his character and an exceptionally well-played scene. Continue reading
Game of Thrones has been so good for so long now that I routinely forget how poorly made this series could have easily been or could be in the hands of lesser showrunners or in the face of greater network opposition to structuring the narrative of the series as closely to the style of the books as they do. The fearlessness with which Benioff, Weiss, and the other writers continually expand the universe on screen is really astounding. The narrative of the series moves constantly and consistently; they may stay in one place for a time, so to speak, as in “Blackwater” or “The Watchers On The Wall,” but it’s only because that’s where they need to stay at that point in time to move the narrative forward. The narrative always moves forward unceasingly, leaving the viewer no time to mourn the deceased but somehow just enough time to reflect on what’s happened. Continue reading
Great athletes on the level of a Michael Jordan in his prime sometimes reach a point in their careers where they begin to dictate the terms of the competition; they’ve ascended to such a level of unprecedented greatness that the execution of their endeavor consists of them continually raising the bar they have set for themselves and their competition. I believe that from a narrative standpoint, Game of Thrones may have reached that level of greatness and proves it by continually raising the bar for what a series can do on television. It really cannot be overstated how spectacular an achievement it is to adapt and sharpen such a sprawling, complex narrative and juggle that many characters for a televisual format and manage to not be tedious, confusing, or even remotely boring. Continue reading